721/The Finale Frontier - Series Finale
Mabel Buchman, now 23, has made a film out of her family's history - specifically that of her parents Paul and Jamie. It recalls how Paul and Jamie, on their 8th wedding anniversary, find out they're not actually married. It turns out that the guy who married them, Lenny (played by Lyle Lovett), wasn't actually an ordained minister. So to their surprise and horror, they find out they've not actually been married. Mabel then recounts how Paul and Jamie did actually end up getting married by the end of the same day (so they could still have the same anniversary date). Of course, it wasn't as simple as all that.
Mabel also explains further why she is the way she is by showing many situations where Paul and/or Jamie were just a little crazy. Like the time when Jamie was talking to Lisa at the hospital while Paul was having a vasectomy, and by the time Paul comes out Jamie is convinced they've made a mistake. Of course later on when Paul is in having the procedure reversed, Lisa manages to convince Jamie that she's made another mistake.
Mabel also documents the reasons why eventually Paul and Jamie seperate. It's an emotional, if not completely explained, tale of miscarriage, and two people growing apart. Yet, Mabel also explains how Paul and Jamie get back together for the last time. It's at the screening of Mabel's film, "Stabbing Bob". Before the film starts, the family (Debbie and Joan, and Ira's family) conspires to have the recently seperated Paul and Jamie sit next to each other. After the film they find out that the magic is still there. So Paul, according to Mabel, moves back in and never leaves again.
This patchwork last episode, which was told from the perspective of a grown Mabel, was a fitting way to end the show. It had the same flashback format used by many of the series' better and more memorable episodes (such as #321/Cake Fear and #'s 314 & 315/Mad About You). It kind of bounced all over the place at times, but the occassional breaks for narrative from Mabel helped to keep things fairly well organized.
The adult Mabel is played by Janeane Garofalo. I have to admit when I first saw Jeanne in "Bye, Bye, Love" (a film starring Paul Reiser) I couldn't stand her. Her appearance in "The Cable Guy" (as the waitress at Medival Inn restaurant) didn't really change my opinion of her. But recently I re-watched "Bye, Bye Love" and discovered how dry Janeane's humor was and how funny she is. Now I think she's great, and when I found out she was playing a grown-up Mabel I was really excited about this. Sure enough, Janeane delivers a really wonderful performance. She doesn't do any actual scenes with anyone, instead simply narrating the episode as though it were her latest film - as in Paul's film, "Buchman".
As an episode, outside of it being the last for Mad About You, it succeeds on many levels. The plot has a reason and somewhere to go. It weaves, loosely, in and out of itself filling in somewhat things we the viewer would have wondered about. It included many funny moments of the kind that attracted us to loving this series. It also had a few very touching moments which were not overdone (the short scene in the elevator after Burt's funeral was truly great). The montage scene towards the end was especially moving. Rarely has Helen Hunt looked more beautiful than she did in the "home movies" of the montage. Anyone who didn't feel like giving their significant other a hug, or a kiss, or at least a call, didn't see the same show I did. On it's own this episode gets a very solid 9.5.
Sure my rating is biased. It's virtually impossible to run a site like this without leaning towards seeing the good in the show. So, I like to think the show ended on a high note. How many series have tried to see the characters 10-20 years down the road without making those awful "reunion" shows to capitalize on the lingering popularity of a show? Few, very few. I can't actually think of one off-hand. Mad About You does and I'm very thankful to Paul and Helen for seeing to this. Helen stated prior to the Academy Awards ceremony that the last episode of Mad About You was going to be something really unique and memorable and I'm glad she delivered on her promise. It was a great ending.
Do I have any complaints about this one? Only two really. First, if you didn't know Paul and Jamie had a kid it would have been hard to get into this episode. We're asked to project 22 years into the future and see a kid, who's now grown up, looking back on parents and their influence on her. We see only glimpses of her over the last two years and now Mabel's flashbacks are the central point of the show. A bit of a stretch, but nitpicking to be sure. In truth this episode worked, no matter how it was approached.
My second complaint is also a minor one. I thought the scene in the movie theater, after Mabel's movie, where Paul and Jamie end up kissing and re-discovering their love, was a bit too contrived. Simply, more nitpicking, forgive me.
The end of the episode was a nice touch. In it Mabel gives a little bit of "where are they now"-type update of each of the characters. And the last line in the show might have been a mushy cliche' on most shows, but for Mad About You, "And these two, if you'll pardon the expression, lived happily ever after", was perfect. I applaude everyone on the show, for giving us 7 years of wonderful television. Through the highs, and the lows, Mad About You has always been a show worth watching. "Thank you for a wonderful engagement!"